01 Nov Champagne versus Altitude
After a hard day on the slopes, we all deserve a glass of Epernay’s finest export. Champagne is, after all, a drink for celebration, relaxation and for spoiling oneself. Yet with such an exact science behind the actual production of this delectable bubbly nectar, it is expected that such a fragile balance would be affected by the higher altitude in the Alpine mountains. But just how much does drinking Champagne at altitude affect the taste?
Champagne at Altitude
Between sea level and higher altitudes, there is a vast change in atmospheric pressure; as you increase in altitude, the atmospheric pressure decreases. Therefore, high up in the mountains this pressure difference makes it easier for the bubbles to escape the liquid when ‘disturbed’ (i.e. opened or drunk), affecting both the size and speed of bubble formation.
Taittinger have conducted an experiment on this effect. They went up in their hot air balloon and drank samples of Champagne at 2500ft, 5000ft, 7500ft and 10000ft (as one does). The higher the balloon went, the larger the bubbles in the Champagne became, which they believe was due to the decrease in pressure.
So rather than the usual slow stream of tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide, the bubbles increased in size and therefore the gas diffused quicker, meaning the overall aroma of the Champagne declined at a faster rate. However, there is a plus side. This increase of ‘fizz’ decreases the apparent acidity of Champagne and makes your tongue feel numb, therefore making it feel more refreshing. But be warned: this effect also means the Champagne becomes flatter quicker, losing that bubbly tingle we love so much.
That said, our informal hands-on research leads to the conclusion that holidaymakers are inclined to drink more whilst away. Furthermore, the Alps seem to have an inflationary effect on the price of a bottle of champagne. The conclusion: drink one’s champagne fast whilst at altitude and book with Kaluma as the champagne is included and unlimited!
So, next time you order Champagne at altitude, take a closer look at the bubbles before you take your first sip and see if you can tell the difference. Then drink it quickly before the bubbles disappear!